Botany 940 - Systematics Seminar

Evidence for Evolution

Spring 2006

Tuesday 12:05-12:55

D. Baum, B. Larget, K. Sytsma - instructors

Just as chemists rarely consider the evidence for the existence of molecules and atoms, biologists tend not to dwell on the evidence for evolution. However, unlike chemists, biologists often need to defend their belief in evolution and biology teachers need to worry about students who come in determined to disbelieve what they are told. Thus, we would all benefit from carefully examining the structure of the evidence in favor of evolution and in building a “library” of specific well-documented cases that we can draw on for teaching and outreach.

After a few introductory weeks, we will spend each class meeting with a presentation and discussion on a particular kind of evidence for evolution. The presenter will be expected to identify one or more case study for which they provide citations to the relevant primary literature and an assigned reading from the primary or secondary literature. The discussion will focus on the nature of the evidence and a critical look at how it might be called into doubt by an anti-evolutionist.Websites that may be of use are available here.

Expectations. Students enrolled in the class will be expected to attend all meetings and participate in the discussions. Additionally, enrolled students should help put on the Darwin Day Outreach Symposium on Feb. 11th. Each student will sign-up to give one presentation.

The presentation should be 20-30 minutes in length. An electronic version of the presentation (Powerpoint or PDF) should be emailed to the professor’s before class. Because we want the presentation to be useable by all participants in the future, all images in the presentation must be attributed in the presentation to a primary source – whether it be a publication or a website that holds copyright of the image. Also, a student should email the class a reference list and a suggestion of one or two short papers to read at least five days before the class (on Friday at the latest).

Useful websites:

The Talk.Origins Archive [and an ID rebuttal website The True.Origins Archive]

The Talk.Origins Archive master links list (thorough!)

The Panda's Thumb discussion group

National Center for Science Education

National Academy of Science's Evidence Supporting Biological Evolution

UC Berkeley Museum of Paleontology's "Understanding Evolution" and "Teaching Evolution for Teachers"

Evolution on the Web for Biology Students (useful for this course!)

D. Fitch's (NYU) Evolution Course (developed around evidence for evolution; one of the better course sites)

PBS's Evidence for Evolution and S.J. Gould site Evidence for Evolution

Flock of Dodos film

Judge John E. Jone's decision on Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial (click on "Decisions" for 139 page pdf)

Darwin Day Celebration (University of Wisconsin) (International)

Evolutionary Biology at University of Wisconsin

Darwin's Writings and Writings of Charles Darwin on the Web

Intelligent Design Network

The True.Origins Archive [rebuttal site for evolution-based The Talk.Origins Archive]

Access Research Network

Discovery Institute

The Wedge Strategy by the Center for Renewal of Science and Culture

The Darwin Report

Reasons to Believe

Institute for Creation Research




Date Leader Topic (with link to powerpoint) & Readings
Jan 17 Organizational Overview
Jan 24
David Baum The claims of evolution

Jan 31

Bret Larget The nature of evidence — Readings: Tests of Significance; Evidence in Science; P value Fallacy; Bayesian
Feb 7 No Class Prepare for Darwin Day Symposium
Feb 11 (Saturday) Symposium Darwin Day Symposium
Feb 14 Talline Martins & Heidi Hillhouse Fossil record I: Transitional fossils — Readings: Early Land Plant Evolution; Early Tetrapod Evolution
Feb 21 Maggie Koopman & Erik Hoffman Fossil record II: Temporal sequencing — Readings: Fossil Record Quality; Whale/Artiodactyl Fossils
Feb 28 Rachel Schmidt & Leith Nye Biogeography — Readings: Origin Species - Biogeogr.; Microbe Biog; Cat Lineage Biog;
Mar 7 Eric Caldera Hierarchical structuring of trait data — Readings: Information in Phylogenetic Data; Random Data
Mar 14 Spring Break  
Mar 21 Jessica Clarke & Flor Rodriguez Agreement among genes — Readings: Testing Evolutionary Hypotheses ; Penny&1982; Sober&2002
Mar 28 Terri Felton & Terra Theim Unintelligence of design — Reading: Vestigialization and Loss of Nonfunctional Characters
Apr 4 Kevin Coleman & Natalie Alvarez Homology/analogy — Readings: Arthropod Eye Evolution; Concerted Convergence in Monocots
Apr 11 Mike White Artificial selection — Readings:Maize Domestication; Bacterial Evolution
Apr 18 Becky Oldham & Raul Correa Rapid natural selection — Readings:Drosophila Speciation ; Low Oxygen Selection
Apr 25 Bryan Drew Speciation — Readings:MonkeyFlowers; Cichlids
May 2 Ken Sytsma Summary of course — Sober Readings: The Design Argument; Review of ID; ID & Supernatural